Wednesday, August 22, 2012


My mom is pretty jazzed that I have my own storage area in my basement. Her excitement is palpable--she's reclaiming her own basement and sending me home with bins and boxes when I visit. Each bin is a reminder that I am as sentimental as they come. Case in point: I only recently decided it was an acceptable time to throw away my box of notes from seventh grade. Toni Wachter, I'm sorry. Our history is now undocumented. Your folding skills are still unprecedented.

When I went to take a sauna last night at my parents' house, the sauna changing room was filled with what I think are the final three bins: My porcelain doll collection, my Beanie Babies and my baseball cards.

I received a porcelain doll each Christmas morning for years. It started around age 7, when I tired of getting a Cabbage Patch doll each Christmas morning. (By the time I was 7, I had triplets. Kind of explains why I always thought I'd have 5 kids...) I loved those porcelain dolls: I loved their glossy curls, I loved their painted freckles, I love the delicate ruffles on their dresses. I loved seeing them standing all fancy on my dresser. They made me feel special and girly, and I realized last night that while I favored the blonde ones, wishing I had their yellow curls, my mom always made sure there were a few brunettes in the mix for good measure. I favor the brunettes now.

The Beanie Babies were a fad, yes, but totally exciting and all-consuming too. I remember serious discussions with my brother, about which ones were mine, and which ones were his, and which ones we wanted to put on our wish list. We were running a Beanie Baby business, him and I, and damn it if I wasn't going to run a tight ship. I'm fairly certain that had I had access to Excel, I would have had some serious spreadsheets going on.  I think the box contains both his and mine, our inventory thrown together after a year or two in business.

When I opened the bin containing the baseball cards, memories flooded back to me. In my painstakingly bubbly second-grade penmanship, the cards were labeled in albums by team. "Angels/Dodgers" was crossed out, probably when I made a big trade with the neighbor boys and gained more Angels cards. One book, I noticed, was alphabetized by first name. I'm telling you, I am who I am. Even when I was 10.

I'll be doing some market research on the cards and animals on eBay. Here's hoping Eric McQuaid and the boy across the street didn't end up trading me out of all the good cards. Jakey, don't worry, you'll receive dividends on the Beanie Bag dynasty. The porcelain dolls will get a corner of my own basement, next to the yearbooks and bin of goodies (orange dress and all).

It's funny, what remains from your childhood. It's a delicate balance, learning what to hold on to and what to let go.

we would heal, be humbled, and be unstoppable
we'd hold close and let go and know when to do which
we'd release and disarm and stand up and feel safe
this is my utopia
this is my ideal, my end in sight
this is my utopia
--Alanis Morissette

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The Upswing

My last post was a bit depressing, yes, but pretty indicative of the last year, and pretty cathartic to write. While my pain has gone up and down, in the worst of it I went from bed to work to store to bed, rinse and repeat. Thankfully, after a few weeks of pool therapy (and jet massages!), I am feeling pretty good, and am able to move on to some more full-body strengthening in addition to some more pool time.

Two things that have helped tremendously this time around is walking with my friend Allison in the mornings and listening to my body. When I'm tired, I rest. When I need to expend some energy, I walk on the beach with Henley. When I'm hungry, I eat. When I'm not, I read. Breaking up others' (read: doctors') expectations and settling into my own non-rhythm has been, I think, what is key to getting me to a place in physical therapy where I can strengthen without overdoing it, seizing up or having spasms. That, or the irritated nerve is healing. Either way.

Either way really is fine (I'll take any progress I can get!), but the lesson is not lost on me. How can it be? It keeps popping up over and over. Hey, Bobbi, chill a little. Let it happen. Take it slowly.

I'm on the upswing. My muscles are sore (in a good way). My heart is light. I'm going to try to gain some momentum this time.

How To: The Pursuit of Better

Call your retired father in the middle of the day to ask him a question you already know the answer to. Bristle when he answers the phone in a crabby tone. Take it personally. Walk into your next meeting feeling anxious. Remember the time your co-worker commented, "You just take things so personally!"

Take a deep breath, like the experts say to. Take three more for good measure. Remind yourself that taking it personally is what makes you human, makes you empathetic, makes you you. Watch your boss's mouth move but have no idea what she is saying. Focus on making your face as neutral as possible. Nod and laugh when appropriate.

Trudge through the rest of your day. Feel bad that you took it personally; he is in a lot of pain, after all. Do your back exercises on your grungy office carpeting and try to believe they work. Close your eyes really hard and try to believe that you will be better soon.

Hop back up to your top-of-the-line office chair, position your lumber support pillow and sit. Sit some more. Try not to flinch. Try to believe this chair makes it better.

Arrive home without remembering the drive. Silently but solemnly hope that you obeyed the new traffic signs at the intersection by your office. Tell yourself, 'No one honked. You must have done it right.' Tell yourself you're tired, you're doing your best. Try to believe it.

Hug your dog while she perches in that familiar spot on the couch. Breathe her in. Try to remember the last time your heart beat like hers is now. Remind yourself those moments come in waves. It might be a while, but you'll feel it again.

Chop up some carrots for dinner. Give your mom short answers when she calls. Tell her not to take it personally. Feel bad when you hang up the phone.

Eat half of your dinner. Put the other half in a Ziploc container for tomorrow. Lie down. Kiss your dog's face. Smile for the first time in hours when her tail goes thump-thump-thump. Be thankful that those moments do not come in waves for her. Take it personally.

Do your back exercises on your grungy bedroom carpeting. Vow to work vacuuming into your schedule tomorrow. Mentally move laundry to the next day, since you're vacuuming tomorrow. Wish there was someone to carry it up the stairs for you. Wish there was someone at all. Quickly strike that thought. You are an independent woman. You will feel it again soon. Believe it.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012


Happy Birthday Henley!

I don't care if this makes me a crazy dog lady--It is your birthday and I am writing you a letter. (Also, I'm pretty sure there are a lot of other things I do that make me a crazy dog lady. This letter is really just confirmation.)

It is pretty crazy how much I love you, though; crazy in the way that it is hard to contain, hard to quantify, hard to hide. But what I really love about you is the way that you are always teaching me something. (Such as: don't let 80% of the pictures you take of your puppy on the day you bring her home be pictures that also include a boyfriend who was soon to be an ex-boyfriend. Take some of just the puppy because on her third birthday you will want to write her a letter and it is tough to crop him out. Sometimes the lessons you teach me are very specific.)

I imagine that what you learn by having a dogbaby is about 1/100th of what you learn by having a humanbaby. But even through all of the struggles and "teachable moments", you taught me the one lesson I needed the most--you came along at the very precise moment that I needed to learn that love can reach a depth not yet known to me. That it's out there, and sometimes you just need to travel to a farm in Podunk, Wisconsin to find it.

But, really, I never knew that I could love you so much in spite of how you drive me crazy. Over the past three years, it's almost as if the things that you do that drive me crazy have become the things I love most about you.

Case in point: I love when you fart so loud that you startle yourself. I love it even more that you get up and drag yourself across the room as if the sound/smell that just came out of nowhere is the most offensive thing you can imagine. You look so put out that you needed to move to get away from the vile offense. I love that about you. You're really dramatic sometimes. And smelly.

I love that you are so excited when someone you know comes to the door that you cannot find it in yourself to behave. This I have come to understand about you: It's true when they say that dogs want to behave, they want to please their people. I see that in you in the average moment. But when Auntie Anna comes into the driveway with or without Apollo, or when you smell something that you. must. in. hale.,  or when you see a flipping bunny, you are overtaken. You always come around, though, and you know you deserve the little swat on the butt so you take it in stride.

I love the way you think sitting against any surface, means that you need to go out, even if its a wall on the second floor. I love that you eat the pulp after I make juice with gusto and enthusiasm--and I love the way your tail tap-tap-taps on the floor when I call you "healthy puppy!" (See also: wanting to please.)

My dad (your Grampy) used to say that he wanted to invent 'shrink pills' that would make me 2-years-old again whenever he wanted. He said it when I got my license, when I went to prom, at all three graduations, and on the day I closed on the house. He said I was growing up too fast--still does. I know what he means now. I wish someone would patent those pills, or a sister pill, that would let you live forever.

But when I really think about it, I am thankful too to your finiteness. You will only live another 10 or 11 years, max, and I think about that more often than is probably good for my mental health. But it means that I am keenly aware that I need to hug you, care for you, enjoy you each and every day, each and every minute, even if it's the minute you slobber on my black dress pants two minutes before I need to walk out the door to a meeting. I love that about you because it helps me learn to love my humans too--even when their proverbial slobber rears its ugly head. I'm thankful for that.

I promise that I will love you even in those moments, because even in those moments you are teaching me how to take life in stride and find the beauty in it.

I love you, beauty. You're my little plum.

(But seriously, enough with the fucking bunnies.)

Love, Mama
 I love that you have paws that are twice as big as they should be.
I love that you always want to be included.
(Last minute wedding planning. Doggone those details!)

I love that you've come to love bathes even though the first one didn't go so hot.
I love that you make me laugh just by being alive. You're pretty hilarious.
I love that you love your boyfriends with enthusiasm. (They love you back. I can tell.)

I love that you think you weigh 20lbs like you did when you were a pup.

I love you, Henley Boo Boo!

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Sehnsucht: Consider Me An Addict

When I embarked on my 30-before-30 list, I set out to knock some things off my want-to-do list, to put them in ink and start working my way down. I expected there to be a lot of lessons in that. I expected that there would be some hiccups, and I even expected that when I turned 30, there would still be some things on my list that I hadn't yet accomplished. Above all, I knew I was going to struggle with accepting the undone. I just didn't realize how much.
Let me explain. I've been feeling this mourning lately, for things that I want to do but might not be able to. It's as if putting a deadline on these 30 things made me frighteningly aware of the finiteness of the world. Or it might simply be the fact that most of my physical and some of my financial goals were wiped clean away by one tiny little irritable nerve in my back.

Or maybe I've just been reading too many articles and I'm feeling sorry for myself for being a member of "Generation Screwed". Or maybe I'm coming across too many articles about millenials who are feeling anxious or having a hard time gaining any traction in this thing called the real world.

Either way, I was beginning to feel an overly dramatic delayed sense of doom and gloom--like it just hit me that the economy tanked, it just hit me that you kind of need to pick and choose your dreams, it just hit me that this world isn't exactly what the generations before promised us. See: John Stewart's commencement speech:
"Lets talk about the real world for a moment... I’ll be blunt. We broke it. Please don’t be mad. I know we were supposed to bequeath to the next generation a world better than the one we were handed. So, sorry... Somewhere between the gold rush of easy internet profits and an arrogant sense of endless empire, we heard kind of a pinging noise, and uh, then the damn thing just died on us. So I apologize."
I was bumming for a few weeks, trying to put my finger on exactly what I was feeling. It wasn't me giving up...that simply isn't in my blood. It wasn't entitlement--I know all good things in life are worth the sweat, tears and sleepless nights. It simply felt like I was longing for something. I wasn't sure what. I wasn't sure if it even existed. It just felt like something was missing.

So of course I kept reading. It's what over-thinkers do when their thoughts don't produce an acceptable conclusion. In the New York Times Article "Pinterest, Tumblr and the trouble with 'Curation'", Carina Chocano muses on why we seem to be, as a culture, addicted to perusing the internet for collections of other people's favorite things or, as she refers to it, perusing for 'lifestyle pornography'. Basically: why are chicks so damned addicted to Pinterest? And what is the fallout?

I thought I was just reading interesting social commentary about a popular social medium--what could this possibly have to do with me specifically? Alas, I stopped dead in my tracks when I read the following:
"There’s a German word for it, of course: Sehnsucht, which translates as “addictive yearning.” This is, I think, what these sites evoke: the feeling of being addicted to longing for something; specifically being addicted to the feeling that something is missing or incomplete. The point is not the thing that is being longed for, but the feeling of longing for the thing. And that feeling is necessarily ambivalent, combining both positive and negative emotions."
Oh. Uh, yeah. That sounds about right.

Except, contrary to what the contents of my own obsessively-curated Pinterest boards would have you believe, I long not for things but for experiences. For wisdom. For milestones. For the all-too-elusive happiness--though I don't know what it exactly looks like. I think I am, in fact, addicted to inspiration or enlightenment. After all, I do "occupy [myself] with or involve [myself] in it habitually or compulsively".

I openly acknowledge this about myself. This is not breaking news. In fact, this was a part of myself I struggled with pre-Pinterest. For crying out loud--2 of my goals are challenges based upon this very facet of my personality: Embrace the gray. Get your head straight so you don't have a full-blown crisis when you turn 30. (You could even argue that the list itself was a kind of stare-down to this tendancy. If you're so occupied with doing these things, I have an idea. Go do them.)

But I ask myself, how harmful is this really? The compulsion to better myself or find/do things that makes me happy? Allow me to present you one pin from my board labeled 'Inspiration', notably one of the most-populated board I have (second only to 'Good Eats'):

On the one hand, not being easily satisfied means I'll always be trying, I'll never be stagnant. But on the other, if I'm not careful, it might make me someone who is wishing her life away, seldom if ever stopping to smell the proverbial roses or enjoy what I've worked so hard to attain.

I think there is a delicate balance in this, and I don't think that it is unique to me. I look around and see several of my friends struggling with this daily. We're all working steadfastly to make our dreams come true while struggling to reminder ourself that there is beauty in the journey.

So, the way I'm choosing to think about accomplishments from now on is inspired by my main dude Rumi:
"What you seek is seeking you." --Rumi
"Everything in the universe is within you. Ask all from yourself." --Rumi 
Basically, I'm choosing to believe that (a) if I put my head down and do some hard work, the universe will deliver, and (b) if I trust myself, I will find my way. This way my success is at once out of my hands and within me.  Maybe this way it won't be all on my shoulders. Maybe this way I can chill with the longing for a while.

Consider me a sehnsucht addict in recovery. Taking it one pin day at a time.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Brain Crush(es): Of Note

I've been subscribed to "Letters of Note" on Facebook for months, but unless I recognized the author or recipient of the letter, I never clicked through to read the post. That was a mistake.

I have since ransacked half of the archives. Here are a few of my favorites so far:

"I Like Words": "I like crunchy, brittle, crackly words, such as splinter, grapple, jostle, crusty.... I like Oh-Heavens, my-gracious, land's-sake words, such as tricksy, tucker, genteel, horrid. I like elegant, flowery words, such as estivate, peregrinate, elysium, halcyon."

"It Is The Woman Who Pays": "I told her one time, 'I worry about women.' She said, 'Don't.'"

"Love, Dad":  "It does take quite a man to remain attractive and to be loved by a woman who has heard him snore, seen him unshaven, tended him while he was sick and washed his dirty underwear. Do that and keep her still feeling a warm glow and you will know some very beautiful music."

I think my very very favorite so far is advice on creating from Dr. Suess:

"This is a field in which no one can give you pointers but yourself. The big successes in this field all succeeded because they wrote and they wrote ... they studied what they'd written each time asking themselves one question: How can I do it better, next time?

To develop an individual style of writing and drawing, always go to yourself for criticsm. If you ask advice from too many other people, then you no longer are yourself.

...keep up your enthusiasm! ... If you'll plug away and do exactly what you are doing, making it better and better every month and every year...that you CAN be successful."

I think it's pretty appropriate advice for life, no?